MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL) said on Friday (Oct 2) it would investigate allegations of drug abuse and domestic violence involving former England international Sam Burgess and the South Sydney Rabbitohs team.
The Australian newspaper said in a report that South Sydney had covered up misconduct by their former captain Burgess during his playing career at the club.
Burgess, who represented England in rugby league and rugby union at the 2015 World Cup, retired from the NRL last year and has since worked in a coaching role at the Rabbitohs.
The NRL said it had instructed its integrity unit to conduct a “comprehensive investigation” into the allegations against the Rabbitohs and 31-year-old.
“These allegations are very serious and I’ve instructed the Integrity Unit to investigate the claims as a priority,” NRL Chief Executive Andrew Abdo said in a statement.
“We will also seek the advice of police and other relevant authorities throughout this process.”
Most of the allegations in The Australian’s report were made by Burgess’ estranged wife Phoebe and his father-in-law.
Burgess, through his lawyer, has denied the claims, which included the need for a liquid tranquilliser after a drug-fuelled binge, testing positive for MDMA or ecstasy and ketamine, and violence against his former wife during his years with the club, which is co-owned by Hollywood actor Russell Crowe.
“It is apparent sources of the false allegations are those currently in dispute with my client over various issues,” Mark O’Brien told The Australian.
Hours after the NRL said they would investigate, Burgess stepped down from his coaching role at the Rabbitohs and his TV job with Fox League, a rugby league channel.
“I have today stood down from all work commitments,” Burgess said in a statement posted on Fox League’s Twitter account.
South Sydney did not provide immediate comment when contacted by Reuters.
In a statement, New South Wales state police said: “On Wednesday Sept 30, officers from the Hume Police District received a report outlining various allegations relating to the conduct of a 31-year-old man.
“Police have commenced inquiries, however as these inquiries are in their infancy there will be no further comment made at this time.”
Burgess became estranged from his wife Phoebe last year and was charged with intimidation by police after visiting the home of his father-in-law last October. He pleaded not guilty to the charge in December.
The father of two was instrumental in the Rabbitohs winning the NRL’s 2014 championship, ending the club’s 43-year title drought.